Forget all that nonsense about the Ringling Bros. — Campus Preview Weekend is officially the ‘Greatest Show on Earth,’ and I mean that in a very good way. I walked out of the Infinite Corridor (which I overheard referred to as “the Really Long Corridor”) onto Massachusetts Avenue Thursday afternoon and received something of a shock — MIT campus central looking like the college brochures I received in the mail oh so long ago. The benches in front of the Student Center were filled in spite of the singular aroma of fresh mulch, and Kresge Oval was alive with flying Frisbees. It’s virtually never like this during the semester — the people frolicking about couldn’t all be admitted pre-freshmen. What is it about CPW that gets us out of our rooms and into the sunlight?
Is it the desire to impress the prefrosh, who are looking to us as possible examples of their future selves? It is, in large part, our role to convince them to come to MIT and show them how to have fun Engineer-style, not to mention accept them into our living space in spite of the lack of reprieve from any of our academic responsibilities. Let me reiterate that: in spite of the lack of reprieve from any of our academic responsibilities. (I’m not bitter — just short on sleep.) Given the innate tendency of MIT students for both excellence and excess, however, I figure that if we really wanted to impress the incoming class, we’d cover every building on campus — except perhaps the Stata Center and Simmons Hall — in aluminum foil and try to convince everyone that MIT is secretly a city from the future, where everything is shiny and plated with chrome. Even if they didn’t buy it, the decorations wouldn’t be hard to pass off as a very elaborate hack.
Maybe it’s all the free food. This is by far a more compelling point — free food is a guaranteed selling point anywhere, and the vast quantities of edibles available can draw famished college students away from their rooms, crawling with their emaciated fingers from event to event, accumulating enough nutrients to sustain them until next year. But that couldn’t be the only reason, could it? Even after taking into account tuition costs, many of the freshmen can readily rely on family support for finances, and therefore could as easily order in food and ignore the outside world entirely. Yet freshman seem to account for just as great a proportion of the MIT students out and about during CPW, if not greater. So something else must be at work.
Perhaps the real reason that current MIT students, and particularly freshmen, are attracted to CPW activities is because we are no longer the center of attention. I will be among the first to admit that I reminisce fondly on my own CPW, not to mention Orientation and Rush, a bombardment of attention under which my ego was inflated to the point of nearly exploding like a dry ice bomb. Naturally, when CPW rolled around (and, I suspect, when Orientation rolls around), we crave the same attention that the incoming freshmen are receiving. This is, of course, to minimal avail, and it isn’t hard to distinguish between the feigned naïveté on our faces and the genuine, uncrushed enthusiasm of prefrosh.
Speaking as one who did my absolute best at my own CPW to impress the grown-up MIT kids, and it’s not until now that I realize that I didn’t have to, I now know that I would have been lavished upon regardless of their perception of my merit. Interestingly enough, with increased contact with the prefrosh, my behavior during last year’s CPW — constantly alternating between fawning awe and complete megalomania — is placed in unnerving perspective.
Man, did I act like a dork.